Putting a well-established story to music can be a daunting task, especially one that means so much to so many people. Doing this without the aid of vocals can be even more challenging, as you’re compelled to tell the story through the notes you play rather than through the words you sing. As a youngster living in Japan I remember reading the story of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, about a girl suffering from leukemia as a result of radiation from the bombing of Hiroshima. Her best friend tells her of a Japanese legend that if she folds a thousand paper cranes the gods will grant her miraculous wishes. She begins folding, hoping that her wish to be cured will be granted. Upon receiving Mono’s newest record and reading that this story was the inspiration and concept behind the music I must say that I was excited, even though I’d never heard any of the band’s prior work.
Walking Clouds takes the listener through a range of highs and lows by its flawless mixing of sparse and quiet with deeply layered and loud soundscapes. Throw in the obligatory ambient noise and this is the definitive soundtrack for the Sadako story. I think this band has been reading Treble and copped the book soundtrack idea for their own use, and good for them. Throughout the album images from the story standout in one’s mind, whether it’s the sadness and innocence of a little girl dying of cancer who constantly questions why humans kill one another to the destruction caused by a nation’s choice to use the deadliest weapon ever created and the joy she feels with the hope of accomplishing her goal and being cured.
The track “Lost Snow,” clocking in at just over fifteen minutes, goes through more twists and changes and evokes more emotional response than most bands could hope to accomplish on a whole album. A beautiful composition that gets enviously loud and distorted and then drops back to gentle and introspective at the drop of a dime, never losing the listener on the direction it’s taking them. This is a song to get lost in, lose track of time and then regain consciousness when the music finally fades.
Though using primarily traditional rock instrumentation, the songs “Mere Your Pathetique Light” and “16.12” combine lush orchestral backdrops with reverb heavy, distorted guitars and crash heavy drumming to create a layered cacophony of soft beauty meeting structured chaos. Great songs and great production, so it’s no surprise to see Steve Albini’s name listed as the album’s knob turner.
If you’re familiar with the story, then you know that Sadako does fold her thousand paper cranes, but doesn’t have her wish answered by the gods she hoped to please. The band uses their album to add a new chapter to her story, by not only relaying the emotion her life and death, but by heralding her rebirth. I’ll be listening to Mono while the rest of the world burns.
Mogwai – Happy Songs for Happy People
Explosions in the Sky – Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place
Mum – Summer Make Good